The snowiest place in America this year is a tiny town in Upstate New York
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on March 07, 2015 at 10:27 AM, updated March 07, 2015 at 4:02 PM
Copenhagen, N.Y. — The snowiest place in America is Bill Hanchek’s back yard, just outside the tiny Upstate New York village of Copenhagen.
More than 21 feet has fallen on Hanchek’s small snowboard behind his house on River Road this season. That’s more than any other spot in the United States as of Friday, including the Rockies and Alaska, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“It’s more than usual,” conceded Hanchek, who has been the official federal snow measurer for 23 years. “It’s not unusually large yet, though.”
Hanchek, who became a National Weather Service volunteer spotter after his wife, Kathy, saw a notice at the post office, recorded 358 inches in the winter of 2008-2009. Last winter, it was 325 inches.
Copenhagen, pop. 801, lies in Upstate New York’s Tug Hill region, which is perennially the snowiest area east of the Rockies. Tug Hill rises from the eastern end of Lake Ontario, and cold winter winds that whip across the lake pick up moisture and dumps aptly named lake effect snow, sometimes several feet per storm. While Buffalo gets national attention for its lake effect snows from Lake Erie, Lake Ontario stays open all winter while Erie freezes. That gives Tug Hill lake effect snow well into the spring.
“We had a trace amount of snow Memorial Day weekend in 2013,” noted Hanchek, a retired engineer from Fort Drum, about 15 miles away.
The East has been battered by Arctic air this winter, bringing big lake effect snowfalls and causing record cold temperatures in Syracuse and other cities. At the same time, a relatively warm and dry winter in the West has depressed snowfall totals there.
Seven of the top ten snowiest places in the country are in New York. That includes Copenhagen’s Tug Hill sister, Redfield, at 227.7 inches, and several areas near Buffalo that were slammed with a massive lake effect storm in November.
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Copenhagen — which is, fittingly, in the town of Denmark — always gets a lot of snow. This year, though, bitterly cold temperatures have kept that snow from melting. There’s still more than 40 inches on the ground in Hanchek’s yard. The nearest official National Weather Station, in Watertown, recorded an average February temperature of just 6.1 degrees.
In and around Copenhagen, snow piles up to 8 feet high line the shoulders of roads. Christmas decorations still adorn poles and porches because it’s been too cold and snowy to take them down. A 15-foot pile of snow looms over the parking lot of the school — which hasn’t used all of its snow days yet.
Several feet of snow still covers roofs; just the head of the Virgin Mary statue pokes out through the drifted snow at the catholic church on Route 12. A thin layer of freezing rain that fell Tuesday gives snow a bright sheen.
The biggest dump of snow came Jan. 10, according to Hanchek’s data. He had to wade through hip-deep snow to get to the measuring station about 100 feet from his back door and record that day’s final total: 39.6 inches.
Village Mayor Kenneth Clarke said it’s been a challenge keeping streets and sidewalks clear this winter.
“It’s been just crazy snow,” Clarke said.
On Friday, lifelong Copenhagen resident Fred Snyder shoveled — again — the steps of his antique shop on Route 12, the village’s main drag.
“I’ve lived here 77 years, and it’s one of the coldest and snowiest years we’ve had,” Snyder said. “I own nine buildings, and I’ve shoveled five days this past week. All I’ve done is shovel.”